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Blog Post by Kate Pearce

This T-shirt pretty much sums me up. If you included books in there you’d have the perfect idea of who I am.

The only problem with being a knitter is that I live in Hawaii, and there is not much call for wooly sweaters, hats, and scarves here in beachwear land. So I knit mainly for other people—especially my family back in England—because they really appreciate being warm.  I always try things on before I send them out, and it takes about a minute before I’m too hot, and I have to take the thing off.

My other love, and one which fits much better with living on an island with amazing hikes and beaches, are my two dogs, Lucy and Bear. Lucy is a tiny Pomeranian Chihuahua mix, and Bear is a Pomeranian. He’s three times her size, but she rules the house like a bossy big sister. When there is a piece of chicken on offer she marshals Bear and the three cats, who are all bigger than her because she weighs in about a mighty 5llbs, with the ferocity of a quarterback calling the play.

Because I work from home having the dogs is very useful. They keep me company while I’m writing, and encourage me to get out of my chair and walk around more regularly.  And, at the weekends, when I have more time, I take them out for long walks, which despite their size they really enjoy. I suspect that if you put a fit bit on Lucy she’d rack up about 100,000 steps every time. Continue reading “Blog Post by Kate Pearce”

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Something Old, Something New: Mushroom, Chard, and Swiss Cheese Galette with Buckwheat Crust Peggy Ehrhart

Long ago, a friend came to visit bearing a galette. (She was always a culinary trend-setter.) The galette was a yummy thing, flat like a pizza but with a crust like a pie crust—no yeast required. Now galettes seem to be everywhere and I’ve been longing to jump on the trend. Recently I saw a recipe for a rhubarb galette in Bon Appetit magazine, a galette that incorporated an ingredient traditional with some galettes: the dough was a combination of regular flour and buckwheat flour.

Also long ago, my husband and I visited a restored village in New Brunswick and came away with a bag of buckwheat flour from an old mill that had been put back into operation. We learned that buckwheat actually isn’t a type of wheat at all but is the seed of a plant in the rhubarb family. It’s been cultivated by humans all around the globe for millennia and was a very common crop in North America in the 18th and 19th centuries—thus the mill in the restored village.

After that trip, buckwheat pancakes became a Sunday-morning tradition, especially when our son and daughter-in-law visit, and the original bag of buckwheat flour has been refilled many times. Buckwheat flour is easy to find online, if not locally.

Because we always have a stock of buckwheat flour, I’m always on the lookout for other things to do with it. I decided I’d make a buckwheat galette of my own, but a savory galette, and for the filling I’d use a variation on the filling for a vegetarian quiche I often make with chard, mushrooms, and sharp white cheddar. I knew the buckwheat would give a slightly nutty flavor to the crust, so to complement that I replaced the cheddar with Swiss cheese. For the mushrooms I used Baby Bellas, but any mushroom will do.

 

Because the filling would go on a flat piece of pastry rather than into a quiche pan, I reduced the number of eggs and the amount of cream.

Ingredients—Mushroom, Chard, and Swiss Cheese Galette with Buckwheat Crust

For the crust:

1 cup flour

1/3 cup buckwheat flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (4 oz.) butter

1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:

3 tbs. butter, divided

Salt and pepper

1 lb. mushrooms

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 good-sized bunch Swiss chard

1 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

1 large egg or two small

1/4 cup heavy cream

To make the dough for your crust:

Mix the flour, buckwheat flour, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into little pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until only pea-sized pieces of flour-covered butter remain.

Sprinkle the ice water over the flour and butter mixture and, still using your hands, work the contents of the bowl into a stiff dough.  Transfer it to a work surface and continue kneading until there are no dry bits and the texture is fairly uniform.

 

Divide the dough into four portions, flatten each until it’s about 3/4 inch thick, and stack them on top of each other. Press down on the stack to make a disk about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for at least an hour. (You can make it way ahead and refrigerate it for a few days.) Continue reading “Something Old, Something New: Mushroom, Chard, and Swiss Cheese Galette with Buckwheat Crust Peggy Ehrhart”

Try Something New: Kick off your shoes to get in touch with nature by Jennifer David Hesse

You know that feeling you get when you walk outside on a perfect, sunny day? You breathe in the fresh, clean air; you feel the gentle breeze. You hear the twittering birds and admire the beautiful trees and flowers, the blue skies and drifting clouds. You feel at once uplifted and relaxed. It’s a good feeling. And it’s good for you, too. Experts say spending time in nature can benefit our health in a myriad of ways, both physically and psychologically.

It can also be a spiritual experience. I know I’ve been awestruck hiking in the mountains, strolling on woodsy trails, and gazing at starry skies. For followers of Earth-based religions (like Wiccan sleuth Keli Milanni), communing with nature is a sacred act. In fact, it’s foundational. You might even say it’s magical.

Yes, the earth is full of wonder and mystery, providing many gifts for those who pay attention. Here’s another one: Besides enjoying the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, how about feeling the ground beneath your feet? Literally. As in, without shoes or socks.

Have you heard of this practice? There’s a term for it—well, two terms actually. It’s called “grounding” or “earthing,” like the thing you might do with an electrical device to avoid getting shocked.

To put it another way: “Earthing (also known as grounding) refers to contact with the Earth’s surface electrons by walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems, some of them patented, that transfer the energy from the ground into the body.”

Drawing up energy from Mother Earth? That sounds wonderfully witchy to me! However, the quote above didn’t come from Patti Wigington. It’s from the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. There have been several scientific studies proving this is a real thing, and lots of anecdotal evidence as well. Touching bare feet to the ground—whether to grass, dirt, sand, or even concrete—is said to promote better sleep, soothe colicky babies, eliminate jet lag, and reduce chronic pain, among other benefits. The recommended daily allowance of “earthing therapy” is generally a minimum of ten minutes per day, though some sources suggest twenty or thirty minutes.

When I first read about earthing, I was eager to give it a try. First, though, I had to wait for the weather to warm up. (I don’t know if grounding works in the cold, but I’m quite sure acquiring frostbite would be counterproductive!) As soon as spring finally sprang here in Chicago, I headed outside, kicked off my flip-flops, and placed my bare feet on the ground.

And you know what?

It felt good.

It really did. And I didn’t even have to wait ten minutes! I immediately noticed a slight rush of energy through the bottom of my feet. The warm patio was especially nice. Making direct contact with the ground gave me a sense of well-being and, yes, groundedness.

As for the squishy cold grass… that wasn’t quite as pleasant. I’ll have to try that again later in the summer. Still, squishy or not, it was kind of fun to tramp around the yard in my bare feet. It made me feel Bohemian and rugged. Like a hippie or a boss. (It’s my backyard, I’ll go barefoot if I want to!)

Of course, this wasn’t the first time I’d ever gone shoeless. But it might have been the first time I did it so mindfully. The simple act of touching bare feet to the earth generated a refreshing sense of freedom—like being on a beach vacation. Or like being a kid again. Continue reading “Try Something New: Kick off your shoes to get in touch with nature by Jennifer David Hesse”

Common Tricks of 19th Century Spiritualists By Mae Clair

Hello, and many thanks for having me as your guest today. I’ve been making the rounds with my new mystery/suspense release, Cusp of Night, a book that uses dual timelines and elements of the supernatural.

For the past timelines, I delve into aspects of Spiritualism in the late 19th Century. This was a time when sham mediums were so common many of them advertised their services in the classified ads of local papers. People were intrigued by oddities, flocking to any traveling circus or sideshow, lured by promises of seeing three-legged men, conjoined twins, or bearded women. Is it any wonder they believed someone could breach the Aether and connect with spirits in Summerland?

Some mediums of the day were magicians, others genuine, still others, charlatans. The frauds were deft in plying their trade and used multiple trick to swindle their customers. Below are just a few of the most popular:

 

A medium would research the background of “sitters” who planned to attend their séances. This included visiting cemeteries to learn family ancestry and asking seemingly innocent questions of townspeople to garner inside information.

Mediums often had trap doors and sliding panels installed in the rooms they used for séances. This allowed assistants, made up with costumes and wigs, to appear from the darkness in the guise of spirits summoned from the grave. Continue reading “Common Tricks of 19th Century Spiritualists By Mae Clair”

Lily Price on Etiquette  by Dianne Freeman

Lily Price here, in London for the social season of 1899, with instructions from my mother to find a British lord and marry him. My sister, Frances accomplished this very feat nine years ago and became Countess of Harleigh, rather impressive, don’t you think? She’s a widow now, sadly, but I’m fortunate she’s here to take me under her wing as I didn’t realize quite how much guidance I’d require.

You see, our mother set Frances on quite a grueling “How to be a lady” course, that lasted most of her unmarried life. When my turn came, I was not as good a student as my sister. Or perhaps not as willing a student. Well, the truth is, I completely rebelled. All the rules of etiquette seemed so silly but now I’m finding the British aristocracy take those rules very seriously.

Titles are a particular area of concern. My sister is Lady Harleigh because she was born plain Frances Price. Her good friend, Fiona Nash is Lady Fiona because she’s the daughter of an earl and thus, born a lady. How is one to know that? When I asked, Frances handed me a tome as thick as the bible, entitled Debrett’s Peerage. I’ve been here less than a week! I couldn’t possibly memorize it in such a short time. Which makes me grateful for one of those many etiquette rules—A young lady should never speak to anyone unless they’ve been introduced. While I find it uncomfortable standing next to someone without uttering a word simply because there’s no one to introduce us, it does save me from making the mistake of addressing him as Mister when he might be a Sir or a Lord or some other such personage. Continue reading “Lily Price on Etiquette  by Dianne Freeman”

New Release, Cusp of Night, and the Birth of the Spiritualist Movement By Mae Clair

Thanks for having me as your guest today. My new mystery/suspense novel, Cusp of Night has just been released and I’m excited to share some information on the background of the book. The story features two timelines—one in the present and one in the past. For the past timeline, I delved into the era of Spiritualism, a religion/pseudo-science that experienced its birth in the mid-1800s. Founded on the principle that life existed after death, and that the dead could communicate with the living, most consider the Fox Sister responsible for setting Spiritualism in motion.

In 1848, John Fox, his wife, and two daughters—Margaret and Kate—moved to a cottage in Hydesville, New York, temporary lodging while their house was being built nearby. Previously owned by a family named Bell, locals referred to the cottage as the “spook house.” A peddler, rumored to have had an affair with Mrs. Bell, vanished after visiting and was never seen again.

Within days of arriving, unexplained noises began to plague the Fox family. Rattling sounds, tappings, and loud bangs were heard each night. John thought nothing of it at first, but the incidents increased in frequency. His wife and daughters were so disturbed, he took to making nightly rounds, searching for the source of the mysterious noises.

After a time, Kate realized that whenever her father knocked on a wall or a doorframe, the same number of knocks would come in reply as if something was trying to communicate. She and her sister named this unseen entity Mr. Splitfoot. In no time they were communicating through an intricate series of knocks.

Splitfoot claimed he was the peddler who had been murdered in the house years before. When John Fox and a neighbor took to digging in the basement and found a piece of a human skull, it seemed apparent Kate and Margaret were in communication with the ghost of the peddler. By 1849 both daughters were hailed as mediums and were giving regular performances, showcasing their otherworldly skills. The Spiritualist movement was born, and the girls became celebrities.

Their fame spread, and in time, they were world renowned. Over the years, their skill would come under scrutiny. In 1888, Margaret Fox denounced Spiritualism as a sham, saying she and her sister produced the rapping sounds by cracking their toes. By 1891 she would recant her confession, and in 1893 would die penniless. Kate, likewise met a sad end, drinking herself to death and passing in 1892. The Spiritualism movement, however, would continue, and would attract such noted practitioners as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Continue reading “New Release, Cusp of Night, and the Birth of the Spiritualist Movement By Mae Clair”

I Am a Rolling Stone by Mia Marlowe

I was bitten by the travel bug early in life. It started with the summertime trips to my grandparents’ cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota. Those long, lazy days of swimming in the sparkling water, fishing for bluegills off the dock, and staying up late to do jigsaw puzzles with my grandma are some of the sweetest memories of my childhood.  Then later, my parents got a pull-behind camper and we set off to explore the American west.

I became addicted to seeing new places. I even willingly gave up my senior prom to visit Washington, DC and New York City. (Side note: I’m no longer with the guy I ditched back then, but we’re probably both better off.) The man I eventually married became travel IT expert, so in addition to having a great husband, I was able to feed my wanderlust! With his flight benefits, we took our kids on trips we’d never have been able to afford otherwise.

Now the kids are grown and gone. My DH is retired, and we’re still exploring new places, but now instead of flying, we pull our camper or go on cruises. We prefer these modes of travel because I was diagnosed with NSIP, a lung condition, in 2010 and have to lug a bunch of medical equipment with me. It’s easier to unpack just once instead of trying to live out of a suitcase. But I don’t let my health limitations stop me. In fact, we just got home from 94 day cruise all the way around the world! (If you’d like to hear more about that adventure, check out http://www.roundtheworldwriter.blogspot.com!)

My heroine in THE SINGULAR MR.SINCLAIR shares my love of the exotic. In fact, I introduce her with a snippet from her diary: Continue reading “I Am a Rolling Stone by Mia Marlowe”

A Work Day at the Beach by Lena Gregory

One of the best parts of living on an island is never being more than a short ride (or walk) from the beach! One of my favorite beaches is only a few miles from my house, and it’s never crowded. Before I head out, I pack my kindle (lots of reading choices), a spiral notebook and pen (since my best writing ideas always hit me when I have no way to write them down, and the beach is one of my favorite places to write), sunscreen (wouldn’t want book tan lines across my stomach or lap) in the summer, though I do like to go in the fall and spring too, and a couple of towels (one to sit on, one to keep my bag on so I don’t get sand in my kindle), a diet soda (because I’m addicted), and baby powder (nothing takes sand off at the end of the day like baby powder!)

I drive two miles and park in a small dirt lot, then hoist my bag over my shoulder and walk about a mile on a trail through the woods to the beach. Walking gives me plenty of time to clear my head, relax, unwind, and think about what I want to write (unless I happen to be writing a scene where a killer is stalking a woman through the woods. Then, not so much.) Not to mention, it’s great exercise.

 

 

That first glimpse of the water always brings a rush of relief, and I can’t wait to get my notebook out and jot down all the ideas that are usually cluttering up my head by that point.

 

 

The first thing I do is take off my shoes and dig my feet into the warm sand. It feels so amazing! Then I set up and start writing. I prefer to do my writing or outlining first, so I can relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility once I’m done. That is, if I have any time left before I have to start running around, picking kids up, making dinner… You get the idea! But back to that peace and tranquility. Continue reading “A Work Day at the Beach by Lena Gregory”

Beaches and Books by Kate Moore

California beaches have a special place in my heart. They come in wonderful varieties from one end of the state to the other, and from the lowest elevations to the highest. I spent long drowsy afternoons of my youth on the western shores of Lake Tahoe, stretched on a towel over sun-heated smooth black rocks with the lake lapping the shore and in the distance the roar of speedboats bumping over the glassy surface. Occasionally, our family would venture to the Nevada side for sandy beaches down steep paths through fragrant brush ending in great boulders, and waters as clear and aqua blue as the tropics. We would bake in the sun as long as we could before taking the plunge into the lake’s icy waters. I always had a fall fashion magazine to read, a notebook full of novel ideas, and a willingness to cast intriguing strangers as potential heroes and heroines. The family with assorted adults, from a grandmother in head-to-toe black to an uncle in a too-small Speedo, that arrived every afternoon in a hearse, were especially intriguing.

Once I met my surfer husband, the beach became not a summer destination, but a place to live. From our first house two blocks from a wide Southern California beach we could see the sweep of Santa Monica bay and hear the waves crack as they broke and thumped the shore. Now we live just a short drive from a fog-shrouded Northern California beach, wetsuits required, where you huddle in a parka and blanket and cling to your coffee while seals and gulls dive and pelicans skim the waves. Annually, we grab our State Parks day use pass and head down the Coast for a surf pilgrimage to our favorite spots. It’s a ritual that requires checking every surf break and eating at our favorite surfer hangouts–burritos, coffee, and ultimately, V-G’s donuts near Swami’s.

 

“A writer to treasure.” —Sabrina Jeffries, New York Times bestselling author

Beauty, wit, and charm may catch a gentleman’s eye, but nothing attracts suitors quite like property . . . as beloved, award-winning author Kate Moore reveals in this delightful Regency romp. For an innkeeper’s daughter new to the dance, a discreet volume of courtship wisdom may help discern the intentions of a mysterious newcomer.

Lucy Holbrook has recently inherited her father’s south London inn, the place she’s always called home. Now her fashionable friends, arming her with The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London, are urging her to sell the establishment and become a society lady, just as her father always hoped. Lucy would rather toss the little book into the hearth—she could never desert the alehouse or its patrons, including an elderly blind man who depends on her care. But she may need every bit of good advice when a handsome stranger arrives with a secret agenda and a baffling crime to solve . . . and Lucy finds herself navigating a most dangerous attraction!

Praise for Kate Moore’s previous novels:

“Moore writes with a lyrical beauty that will leave no heart untouched.” –RT Book Reviews

“Fans will hope for more of Moore’s sinful delights to come.” –Library Journal (starred review)

“Moore skillfully whets readers’ appetites . . .” –Booklist

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